Business risks of contacts with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement

Resolution Text

Companies are facing scrutiny for contracting with government agencies carrying out the Trump administration’s inhumane family separation and indefinite family detention policies at the US-Mexico border. 

The UN considers such separation and detention illegal under international law and has stated the practice constitutes “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has over $60 million in contracts with Thomson Reuters. ICE relies on data and technology provided byThomson Reuters products such as CLEAR® to track and arrest immigrants on a massive scale.

CLEAR® is a powerful software tool that enables background checks by consolidating records across multiple databases, including utilities, DMV records, property, criminal/arrest and court records, business data, healthcare provider information, live cell phone records and license plate recognition.

Historically a media company, Thomson Reuters’s success is increasingly determined by software offerings. Its practices should now be compared against software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. The most prominent SaaS companies, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Oracle, Cisco and Salesforce.com, have indicated their approaches to human rights are informed or guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

An organization chaired by the author of the UNGPs stated: 

[T]hose businesses that operate or have parts of their value chain in countries where governments fail to fulfill their own duties to protect human rights will need to make additional efforts to respect human rights in light of the risky environment.

While Thomson Reuters has not invoked the UNGPs, it is a signatory to the UN Global Compact and its Ten Principles. Facilitation of ICE’s questionable activities calls into question whether Thomson Reuters is satisfying it obligations under the first two Principles:

Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and

Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Thomson Reuters has stated that its reputation is key and negative publicity could harm relationships with customers.

Thomson Reuters has no formal commitment to remedy adverse impacts of human rights abuses by its customers, there is no clear evidence that it conducts human rights risks assessments, and its compliance with the UN Global Compact is questionable. Given the lack of risk mitigation and disclosure, investors have insufficient information to gauge whether Thomson Reuters is addressing this serious risk.

RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board produce a human rights risk report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, addressing:

● how Thomson Reuters assesses its role in contributing to and being directly linked to human rights impacts by end users,

● how Thomson Reuters mitigates its role in contributing to adverse human rights impacts from end users,

● whether Thomson Reuters remains in compliance with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, and

● whether Thomson Reuters’s failure to invoke the UNGPs is out-of-step with market practice, particularly where reputational damage may have a material adverse effect on a company’s business.

Lead Filer

Emma Pullman
British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union